Thursday, September 1, 2011

Apple’s Creative Destruction of Competitors

By Barry Ritholtz - August 30th, 2011, 9:15AM
One of the things that seems to have gotten lost in the avalanche of Steve Jobs coverage has been the impact he has had on technology investors. I refer not to the entire technology sector as an investable asset, but rather, the utterly crushing effect Apple has had on specific competitors as Jobs remade entire industries.
It is creative destruction writ large.

Starting with the iPod, consider the companies and franchises that the Apple juggernaut has demolished in its wake. Yes, we know the original Mac was hugely influential, ripped off by Microsoft. AAPL was marginalized as a PC player, only kept alive by a $150m MSFT investment in the a 1990s so as to retain a weakened competitor in the OS space.
Today, the triple threat of iPod/iPhone/iPad has left behind a wake of confounded business models, overwhelmed managements, and bereft shareholders. Let’s look at who has been hurt — and helped — by the elegant interface monster from Cupertino:
• HP: The printer business may still have some ink left, but the iPad has gutted HP’s PC operations. It has reached the point the company is considering selling the $40 billion revenue division and leaving the PC industry. HP’s tablet entry, the $499 Touchpad, was a disaster — Best Buy was sitting on over 200,000 unsold units. None were selling until the priced was slashed 80% to $99. (Sure, they may lose $200 on each one, but HP makes it up in volume!) 

• Dell: About Apple, founder Michael Dell once famously stated “What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.” When Apple’s market cap passed Dell’s back in 2006, Steve Jobs reminded employees of that barb via email. Today, Apple’s profits ($29B) alone are actually larger than Dell’s entire market capitalization.
• Motorola: See Google, below
• Research in Motion/Blackberry: For a very long time, RIMM “owned” the enterprise market for mobile email and text messaging via their “Crackberry.” They are an instructive example of how a leader can get toppled by an innovative competitor. Topping out at $144 per share in 2008, the RIMM now trades in the $20s, with no solid answer to the iPhone. The NYT’s David Pogue just called their latest entry, the BlackBerry Bold 9900, too little, too late.
• Nokia: Not too long ago, Nokia had better than a 50% market share in the mobile phone market. Today? Just 15%, and forced to abandon their own OS in favor of Microsoft’s also ran Mobile OS.
• Ericsson: I’m sorry, but the name doesn’t ring a bell.

• Microsoft: Once a vicious and hated monopolist, Mister Softee is currently run by a Steve Ballmer.  Bill Gates’ old pal is in so far over his head it would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.
Under Ballmer’s reign, Microsoft has become vulnerable. They have missed just about every major trend in technology over the past decade. Ballmer famously said he wouldn’t let his kids use an iPod or Google, missing (amongst many other tech trends) a entire computing shift. As recently as 2 years ago, he claimedLinux was a bigger competitor to Microsoft than Apple. Perhaps a different CEO might have had a strategic counter to Jobs, but Ballmer was not that guy. They still are a cash cow, but that is likely to dissipate over the next decade.
• Sony: Once owned the portable music space, but their Walkman was replaced by the iPod, and their well regarded Vaio laptops are getting suplanted by iPads. They have a huge consumer electronics, film, and television business, but are being slapped by the Koreans below and Apple above.
Intel: A mixed bag to say the last. Intel is powering Macs and has some chipsets in other Apple products, but their PC business appears to be suffering.
Google: A juggernaut in its own right, GOOG acquired Android and turned it into a legitimate competitor to the iPhone. But they don’t sell the OS — they give it away for free, and retain the search rights (their bread & butter).
It was smart to expand into mobile so as to not get eclipsed in that space, but it also created another set of headaches: Patent exposure. Apple not only dominates the space, but they also acquired a huge trove of Nortel patents so as to insulate themselves, and challenge all comers. This forced Google to pay up for a comparable portfolio, grabbing (former Apple partner) Motorola for $12.5B. The jury is still out as to whether this will insulate some of the obvious Apple inspired tech on the Android . . .
AT&T: Was desperate enough to let Apple dictate terms for the iPhone, thereby changing the entire industry. When iPhone calls got dropped in large numbers Apple may have saved them from an ignominious demise.
Sharp:  Apple invested a billion in Sharp to insure a steady supply of laptop LCDs.
Corning (GLW) – ‘Gorilla’ Touchscreen Glass is the supplier to not only iPod touch/iPhones/iPads, but the entire industry. the i-line and its inspirations has been a boon to Corning.
Sprint: WSJ reporting they will get iPhone 5 in October)
Foxconn: Manufacturer of many Apple products (but still has not resolved its worker suicide issues).
STMicroelectronics Makes the Accelerometer, Gyroscope in iPods
Qualcomm (QCOM) – Wireless baseband chips in iPhone4 and to be in iPhone 5
Hat tip Josh Brown,  John Melloy,

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Alloy Could Produce Hydrogen Fuel Using Sunlight

Posted by Soulskill  
from the panacea-for-the-zeppelin-industry dept.
intellitech writes"Using state-of-the-art theoretical computations, a University of Kentucky-University of Louisville team demonstrated that an alloy formed by a 2 percent substitution of antimony (Sb) in gallium nitride (GaN) has the right electrical properties to enable solar light energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, a process known as photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting. When the alloy is immersed in water and exposed to sunlight, the chemical bond between the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water is broken (abstract). Because pure hydrogen gas is not found in free abundance on Earth, it must be manufactured by unlocking it from other compounds. Thus, hydrogen is not considered an energy source, but rather an 'energy carrier.' Currently, it takes a large amount of electricity to generate hydrogen by water splitting. As a consequence, most of the hydrogen manufactured today is derived from non-renewable sources such as coal and natural gas. The team says the GaN-Sb alloy has the potential to convert solar energy into an economical, carbon-free source for hydrogen."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Localizing Language in the Brain

ScienceDaily (Aug. 30, 2011) — New research from MIT suggests that there are parts of our brain dedicated to language and only language, a finding that marks a major advance in the search for brain regions specialized for sophisticated mental functions.
Read More

This might just beat the minority report interface.

Nsquared's Seamless Computing, Surface + Kinect + Slate + Phone = amazing interface (video)

Sydney's nsquared is calling it "Seamless Computing" -- software which unifies Windows Phone 7,SurfaceWindows 7 Slate and Kinect. Begin designing a new home on your phone and then place it on the Surface to share between all the devices, then pick up the Slate to make some modifications before walking through a 3D model of the building, navigating with Kinect's gesture interface. Software like AirPlay and Touch to Share already give you a taste for this sort of tech, but the experience that Dr. Neil Roodyn demonstrates in the video below is far more immersive -- not to mention unspeakably cool.

Mario Gets a Portal Gun In New Indie Game

Posted by Soulskill  
from the princess-is-a-lie dept.
jjp9999 sends word of a game in development that mashes up Super Mario Bros. and PortalDubbed Mari0by its developer, the game is being built on the Löve framework and will be released for free. The originalSuper Mario Bros. levels will be included, as well as some puzzle-style maps and a level editor. They also plan to include simultaneous multiplayer.

New Worm Morto Using RDP To Infect Windows PCs

Posted by timothy  

from the my-heart-goes-out-to-you dept.

Trailrunner7 writes"A new worm called Morto has begun making the rounds on the Internet, infecting machines via Remote Desktop Protocol. The worm is generating a large amount of outbound RDP traffic on networks that have infected machines, and Morto is capable of compromising both servers and workstations running Windows. Users who have seen Morto infections are reporting in Windows help forums that the worm is infecting machines that are completely patched and are running clean installations of Windows Server 2003."

Monday, August 29, 2011

There's Been a Leak At WikiLeaks

Posted by Soulskill  
from the who-leaks-the-leakers dept.
adeelarshad82 writes"German paper Der Freitag claims it has uncovered a batch of online unredacted diplomatic cables that came from WikiLeaks. Editor Steffen Kraft said he found a 'password protected csv file' that contained a 1.73GB cache of diplomatic cables from WikiLeaks. Its pages contained 'named or otherwise identifiable "informers" and "suspected intelligence agents" from Israel, Jordan, Iran, and Afghanistan.'"

Gut Bacteria Exert Mind Control

Posted by Soulskill  
from the lactobacillus-colbertsus dept.
sciencehabit writes"Hundreds of species of bacteria call the human gut their home. This gut 'microbiome' influences our physiology and health in ways that scientists are only beginning to understand. Now, a new study suggests that gut bacteria can even mess with the mind, altering brain chemistry and changing mood and behavior (abstract)."

When two chatbots have a conversation, everyone wins (video)

By   posted Aug 29th 2011 1:08PM
What did one chatbot say to the other chatbot? Quite a lot, actually -- but good luck making any sense out of it. That's what researchers from Cornell's Creative Machines Lab recently discovered, after pitting two bots against one another for a good ol' fashioned talk-off. It's all part of the lab's submission to this year's Loebner Prize Competition in Artificial Intelligence -- an event that awards $100,000 to the team whose computer programs can conduct the most human-like conversations. Unfortunately for Cornell's squad, their chatbots still have a long way to go before achieving conversational coherence, though they could easily get hired as anchors on most cable news networks. Throughout the course of their frenetic (and often snippy) discussion, one bot raised heady questions about God and existence, while the other boldly claimed to be a unicorn. Basically, they had the exact same conversation we used to have in our dorm rooms every night, at around 4 am. Watch it for yourself after the break. It's nothing short of sublime.

Joining Blood Vessels Without Sutures

Posted by Soulskill  
from the what-can't-duct-tape-do dept.
Med-trump writes"Stanford microsurgeons have used a poloxamer gel and bioadhesive, rather than a needle and thread, to join together blood vessels. The technique, published in the recent issue of Nature Medicine, may replace the 100-year-old method of reconnecting severed blood vessels with sutures. According to the authors of the study, 'ultimately, this has the potential to improve patient care by decreasing amputations, strokes and heart attacks while reducing health-care costs.'"

Ex-Board Member Says HP Is Committing 'Corporate Suicide'

Posted by timothy  
from the suicide-by-1000-cuts dept.
theodp writes"If Apple's looking for a seamless transition, advises the NYT's James B. Stewart, it definitely shouldn't look to Hewlett Packard. In the year after HP CEO Mark Hurd was told to hit-the-road-Jack, HP — led by new CEO Leo Apotheker — has embarked on a stunning shift in strategy that has left many baffled and resulted in HP's fall from Wall Street grace (its stock declined 49%). The apparent new focus on going head-to-head with SAP (Apotheker's former employer) and Oracle (Hurd's new employer) in enterprise software while ignoring the company's traditional strengths, said a software exec, is 'as if Alan Mulally left Boeing to join Ford as CEO, and announced six months later that Ford would be making airplanes.' Former HP Director Tom Perkins said, 'I didn't know there was such a thing as corporate suicide, but now we know that there is.'"